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2/5 Big Ten Preview: OSU at Michigan

Preview all of Sunday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has three intriguing games on the slate on Sunday, highlighted by a rivalry matchup between Ohio State and Michigan in the early afternoon. Fans will also get to see Penn State try to navigate a potential stumbling block in Nebraska and Wisconsin host Northwestern in an important game for both sides.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan by 1

In late February of 2021, Michigan traveled to face Ohio State in what would be a blockbuster showdown. The Wolverines entered the game at 16-1 and were coming off four straight wins while the Buckeyes were 18-4 and has won seven straight. It was a battle of heavyweights that would go down to the final seconds, with Michigan narrowly escaping with a win over Ohio State.

Two years later, the teams are set to meet again.

Unfortunately, this one comes with starkly different stakes.

While the 2021 meetings (the teams would play again in the Big Ten Tournament) were epic battles between squads playing well, Sunday’s game is between teams in free fall. Both have watched relatively promising starts spiral, leaving them with records right around .500 overall. It’s severely diminished their postseason hopes and left many questioning both programs. Sunday offers a chance to quiet those rumblings, if even for a day.

On the court, the teams share some similarities this year. Both have underwhelming defensive units and rely extensively on freshmen stars to carry them offensively. Michigan utilizes Jett Howard while Ohio State has Brice Sensabaugh. Both look like All-Big Ten Freshmen and have to consider their NBA options after the season.

However, the biggest difference is in offensive efficiency. While Ohio State boasts a top 10 offense, Michigan has struggled for consistency. The Buckeyes are also an elite perimeter shooting team, which has given the Wolverines a lot of trouble this season. The key for Michigan to come out on top will be a big performance from Hunter Dickinson down low and some quality defense on Sensabaugh and Sueing on the wing. Otherwise, Ohio State should be in decent position to grab a win.

  • Pick: Ohio State

The Rest:

-Penn State Nittany Lions at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 4:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State by 2

This game won’t get much attention nationally, but it’s quietly one of the more important games for the league over the weekend? And why is that? Because Penn State desperately needs to avoid an upset against the Huskers to remain in NCAA Tournament at-large consideration. This is the kind of game that has derailed Tournament hopefuls in the past and Penn State needs to get the job done here.

On the court, Penn State’s clearly a superior team. The Nittany Lions have a better record, have a more balanced lineup, and are playing better right now. Jalen Pickett also figures to be the best player on the floor on Sunday. The question is simply whether Penn State plays well, or plays down to its competition. And Nebraska is more than capable of making things difficult, with a tricky defense and a solid big man Derrick Walker down low.

  • Pick: Penn State

-Northwestern Wildcats at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 3

It’s been a tumultuous last few weeks for these programs. Both have faced significant adversity, with Northwestern having to overcome COVID-19 complications and Wisconsin facing a 1-6 skid. However, the programs have shown resolve, with both scoring some valuable recent wins. Northwestern knocked off Wisconsin in late January and the Badgers are coming off a road win over Ohio State.

This all sets up an intriguing matchup on Sunday, as both sides will look to grab a valuable win for their NCAA Tournament pursuits. As noted above, Northwestern won the first meeting between the teams, but it was highly competitive and that game was played in Evanston. The star in that one was Boo Buie, who finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. As such, the goal here for Wisconsin has to be slowing him down and minimizing any transition opportunities.

Wisconsin’s offense also continues to be a sore spot for the team. The unit ranks 144th nationally in efficiency. As always, the Badgers will try and outperform that mark. This feels like a game where home court will be enough for them to skate by with a win.

  • Pick: Wisconsin


Picks Record: 83-29-0